Today marks the last day of Amina Doherty’s tenure as FRIDA’s Coordinator. And though we know very well that no one really ever ‘leaves’ our feminist movements, we want to mark this day with appreciation and recognition of Amina’s path-setting contributions to FRIDA’s evolution from an idea to fully fledged Young Feminist Fund. The rejuvenation of FRIDA leadership and continued support to young feminists around the globe is ensured by the deep commitment of the FRIDA Advisory committee and the supporting institutions of AWID and FCAM. The possibilities are truly endless for FRIDA’s development in the years to come!
Here are some words from us – FRIDA Advisors AND grantees to appreciate Amina and to look forward toward FRIDA’s bright future!
Program Manager at AWID and Interim Coordinator of FRIDA (as of April 8)
Words of Appreciation for Amina:
Starting up a new organization from scratch always requires a lot of courage, persistence, optimism, creativity, imagination, vision and commitment. Starting up FRIDA the Young Feminist Fund was even a bigger challenge, taking in account its innovative model and its global ambitions. However, you made it happen Amina with such grace and lightness! Your leadership embedded all these qualities and more. We could feel your love for art, painting and music vibrating behind you, pushing you ahead even during the most difficult times, when sometimes it seemed impossible to achieve so many things a t the same time. Thank you for giving birth to FRIDA with the support of all the young (and less young) “comadres” you had around. I know that we will all stay close to FRIDA wherever we are and that with our ongoing support, our future coordinator will take good care of the “new kid on the block” and will take it to a new and exciting stage of development and success.
Thank you Amina!
Ana Criquillion and Carla López from Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres (FCAM and CAWF)
The leadership, creativity, vision, commitment and passion that Amina gave FRIDA as its Coordinator during its start-up phase has made FRIDA what it is today: an exciting, innovative, dynamic new women’s fund, supporting amazing work led by young feminist around the world, creating opportunities to mobilize much needed new resources to support feminist organizing globally. We have been so lucky to have you Amina as our colleague leading this important new feminist organization, and we wish you all the best in the new phase that you will be starting soon!
Lydia Alpizar, Executive Director of AWID
Amina has been a fearless leader to FRIDA. Her enthusiasm, energy, dedication and belied about what FRIDA was becoming was contagious from the moment I met her. As the coordinator, she always ensured that we all took ownership for the success and challenges with FRIDA. For me, I will remember Amina as the charismatic but firm leader who encompassed FRIDA’s core values of flexibility, resource(fullness), inclusivity, diversity and action. As FRIDA transitions into new leadership and new round of grants, I look forward to continue to work with FRIDA to ensure that these core values are living reality in the activism and initiatives FRIDA supports.
Marisa Viana, Manager for Young Feminist Activism Program at AWID
Amina is a true believer in the power of young feminist organizing — this belief has grounded and driven her work at FRIDA. She brings energy, creativity, vision, and love to her work. Her leadership and love has helped to build the amazing community of grantees, donors, advisors, and supporters that is FRIDA today. We look forward to nurturing and supporting this community in its next stages. Using Amina’s example as our model, we will ground our work going forward in our firm belief in the power of young feminist organizing.
Betsy Hoody, FRIDA Advisor
From our first conversation, I already thought that I was dealing with a woman with strong beliefs. I later noticed that you showed as well a lot of insight and empathy in your task as coordinator. Never imposing your will on others. I sincerely hope that the path you’re taking today will be bright and full of accomplishment. Just like FRIDA’s that continues its momentum and will welcome talented and dedicated leaders.
Fanta Cisse, FRIDA Advisor
Dès notre première conversation, je me disais déjà que j’avais affaire à une femme avec de fortes convictions. J’ai ensuite découvers que tu faisais preuve de beaucoup de clairvoyance et d’empathie dans ta tâche de coordonatrice. N’imposant jamais ta volonté aux autres. J’espère vivement que le chemin que tu emprunte aujourd’hui sera brillant et plein d’accomplissement. Tout comme celui de FRIDA qui continuera sur sa lancée et verra passer beaucoup de leaders talentueux et dévoués.
Fanta Cisse, FRIDA Advisor
“En Noviembre del 2010, a parte de conmemorarse el 25, el día contra la violencia hacia las mujeres, comenzamos a construir un sueño que hoy es realidad: FRIDA. Y quien ayudo firmemente a hacer realidad este gran sueño colectivo fue Amina. Amina Doherty, con pasión, fortaleza, un enorme corazón y sobretodo con su creatividad nos ayudo a volver realidad los deseos de un cumulo de feministas algunas más jóvenes que otras. Y no fue una tarea fácil. Pero a tres años, podemos ver los resultados de su labor. Frida es un fondo reconocido a nivel global, se han acercado más de 1,000 grupos y hemos apoyado a grupos de jóvenes feministas del sur global que tienen una gran capacidad de incidencia política y de transformación para lograr un mundo mejor. En este 2013, en Frida, tenemos un gran reto, pasar a una nueva etapa donde un primer paso es que se cierra una etapa con Amina, pero nos deja con toda la fortaleza para consolidar un equipo en FRIDA, para poder apoyar a cada vez más grupos de jóvenes feministas a nivel global. Amina nos deja un gran trabajo de tres años de lucha, esfuerzo y dedicación, nos deja un gran camino, para seguir construyendo un mundo mejor y más justo para las jóvenes y niñas”
Perla Sofia Vazquez Diaz , FRIDA Advisor
For me, Amina truly embodies the qualities of feminist leadership: leading through humility, solidarity and support in order to ensure FRIDA does outstanding work. She’s been able to bring together the energies of a far-flung, diverse and creative group in order to launch, guide and support FRIDA in her inaugural journey. Her indefatigable enthusiasm and inspiring optimism is the stuff of legends! With FRIDA’s foundations in place, Amina has set the tone for successes that are sure to continue. We are cheering her on in her next endeavors and welcoming in new energies for the next phase of FRIDA’s life.
Amanda Shaw, Program Associate at AWID, FRIDA support staff
Amina you have been the first courageous young feminist to work with young feminist and shown to us that good heart of, understanding our issues, giving us equal opportunities and sharing information we are really going to miss you a lot but all in thanks for the great work you have done to bring out young feminist on board.
Crested Crane Lighters, FRIDA Grantee
Although I never met you in person and the closest we could get was via skype, I feel that you are an amazingly important feminist comrade, a person who I can trust. Your support and commitment is something to admire and I hope I will meet more people with your ideals. Your work and positive energy are extremely empowering for our group. Thank you!
Radical Queer Affinity Collective, FRIDA Grantee
On behalf of Friends of Life Foundation and myself, we would like to say that Amina is unique and dynamic when it comes to coordinating or communication. The reason I’m saying this is that during my travelling arrangement and participation in the AWID forum in Turkey the manner and fastest way she took to arrange for my travelling was amazing. She is sociable, lovely, non-racism or discrimination, respectful and hardworking. Word cannot express her coordinating abilities during her terms. We wish her good health and success wherever she will find herself.
We love you Amina.
Friends of Life Foundation , FRIDA Grantee
On behalf of “EQUAL RIGHTS” young activists group I thank you for your wonderful work you’ve done for FRIDA and for us as a grantee. You have been always willing to help us with your responses and advises, as well as with the very valuable and useful information and materials, resources you shared with us regularly. Wish you all the best. Such a positive person like you makes this world better. THANK YOU. ”
Equal Rights, FRIDA Grantee
As Y-Fem I am honoured to have met such a vibrant womyn as Amina. She is driven by love, and strong drive behind that love is appreciation and celebration of young womyn. Amina has supported us not only on a donor -grantee relationship but she has walked this path in solidarity with me, hopefully all the grantee partners. I am wishing Amina light and love for her next ventures…
Y-Fem, FRIDA Grantee
Warm Greeting from Georgia. Thank you very much for you amazing work and support all the time. You courage gave us inspiration to join women’s movement and be part of it. Thank you once again and sending big love from Georgia. Helping Hand and Civil Society Development Centre.
Tinatin Meskhi, Deputy Director
Helping Hand – NGO, FRIDA Grantee
By Nassreena Sampaco-Baddiri on 07 March 2013
At the heart of Manila’s main thoroughfare, right at the People Power monument, a large group of Muslim women gathered one Sunday (Oct. 14, 2012), in pink hijabs no less, to send an important message to the rest of the Filipino nation as the historic framework agreement on the Bangsamoro was about to be signed: “Religious understanding now, Bangsamoro for peace, yes to national unity.”
To me, the message is clear: Amid cultural and religious diversity, respect and understanding are key to peace and progress. This has been a global challenge, from Pakistan to Gaza, from Myanmar to South Sudan.
In the Philippines, colonial perceptions against Muslim Filipino minorities, collectively known as the Bangsamoro, prevail, even decades and generations after independence. This perpetuates a sense of social exclusion, as the Bangsamoro or Moros continue to grapple with social injustices and socio-economic marginalization.
The roots of the socio-cultural divide in Filipino society are not unique; they go deep into the colonial and post-colonial history of the Philippines, where Moros have been branded as the “other” in the colonial game of divide and conquer. At the same time, while global events such as the “war on terror” reinforce negative public perceptions of Muslims, there is no meaningful understanding of Islam as a religion of peace. This largely reflects the global perception of Islam as a mystery that has yet to unravel, particularly in nations with Muslim secessionist movements such as the Philippines, Thailand and Myanmar.
Invariably, Muslim women bear the brunt of this social divide — either in situations of conflict or in diaspora. In conflict situations in Mindanao, a large percentage of internally displaced persons are women with families, including young children and the elderly to care for. Muslim women in diaspora have shared experiences of various forms of discrimination just from the fact that they wear the hijab or the veil. In 2012, an education institution in Zamboanga city imposed a ban on the wearing of veils, sparking protests. The ban was eventually lifted after substantial dialogue with women’s advocacy groups and the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos but left an indelible impression.
The peace process is definitely crucial not just in resolving the Mindanao conflict but, equally significant, in Filipino nation building. International aid agencies have largely kept a strong presence in Mindanao — in order to provide aid to conflict-affected populations through the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and World Food Program; ensure support for the peace process as in the case of the International Monitoring Group; or provide immediate peace dividends, as with aid initiatives launched by the European Union this year which includes food-for-work and cash-for-work programs. The Australian Agency for International Development has committed a large portion of aid in Mindanao to basic education, specifically in making public education culturally sensitive to Muslim children given that conflict-affected areas in Mindanao have the lowest cohort survival rate for the whole country.
Certainly, Filipino women are playing a critical role in the peace process. Maisara Damdamun-Latiph, co-chair of the Khadija Center and assistant secretary for the Department of Education in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, has reiterated that women are the first educators of Filipino children, and the future of peace begins with the teaching of values of peace and tolerance in the home. Recognizing the essential role of women, the U.S. Agency for International Development has been working with local communities in promoting the role of women in peace building through training programs where a third of participants are women peace advocates.
In this regard, women, both Muslim and Christian, are driving the progress of the Mindanao peace process. At the helm of the peace process are women leaders who have demonstrated strong leadership in the pursuit of genuine peace in Mindanao. Ging Deles and Yasmin Busran-Lao have long been peace and women’s advocates in civil society movements before being part of government. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, a university professor and chairwoman of the government panel for the peace process, has written extensively on the Mindanao conflict and has approached the peace process in a proactive way that places emphasis on people’s participation. Raisa Jajurie, a peace panel member for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and Laisa Alamia-Masuhud are co-founders of Nisa Ul-Haqq Fi Bangsamoro, an organization that pursues the implementation of the U.N. Security Council resolution on women, peace and security. Oxfam has funded programs of Nisa Ul-Haqq Fi Bangsamoro, chaired by Busran-Lao, principally for its advocacy on gender justice for Muslim women.
Civil society women leaders have likewise stood at the forefront of bridging the Muslim-Christian Filipino divide through meaningful ways. Karen Tanada of the Gaston Ortigas Peace Institute has worked tirelessly to bring together Christian and Muslim women peace advocates through interactive fora. Marites Guingona-Africa of the Peacemakers Circle has been known for interfaith community workshops that encourage Muslim-Christian relationships anchored on trust and harmony. Bai Rohaniza Sumndad of the Asia-America Initiative has brought peace initiatives to various educational institutions in Metro Manila to shore up support for the peace process. Aisha Flores of the Muslim Sisters Bridging Society focuses on the socio-economic challenges of Muslim women in Metro Manila. According to Jane Dimacisil, program manager of the Khadija Center and psycho-social trainer for Muslim Sisters Bridging Society, more attention must be given to psycho-social well-being given its impact on conflict resolution. Delving deeper into the issues, Frida’s Young Feminist Fund supports Khadija Center’s research program on the lived realities of Muslim Filipino women in diaspora.
In the Philippines, these women and others are taking the lead to find innovative ways for social healing, interfaith dialogue and reconciliation to take place. They’re not alone in their fight, as their peers work tirelessly around the globe to advance women’s issues. Happy International Women’s Day!
Cross-posted from: https://www.devex.com/en/news/in-the-philippines-women-stand-up-for-peace/80454
Nassreena Sampaco-Baddiri is chair of the Khadija Center for Muslim Women Studies, a research and policy advocacy center aimed at empowering Muslim women in the Philippines. Nassreena is a Devex Manila 40 Under 40 global development leader and a FRIDA grantee partners.
The recent decade has witnessed the strengthening of commitments and resources for gender equality and women’s empowerment from a diverse set of actors involved in development efforts worldwide. With the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals just around the corner, the need for increased resources is more urgent than ever, further assisted by calls for making gender equality a cornerstone for development. It remains to be seen whether this recognition will actually be translated into financial support by grantmakers in a more effective, responsive and respectful fashion that can truly bring about a hopeful vision for a prosperous future for women and girls globally. Actively involved in this debate, FRIDA selected a collection of valuable resources to assist young feminist activists in their search for sponsorship and support.
1. ‘Where is the money for Women’s Rights?‘: Recognising that women’s rights organisations often suffer from severe under-funding, AWID launched the WITM initiative with the aim of building in-depth knowledge on resource mobilisation and increasing the effectiveness of women’s rights groups in raising and gaining access to funds.
2. ‘Untapped Potential – European Foundations Funding for Women and Girls‘ : A research study, commissioned by Mama Cash, which attempts to throw light on the extent that European Foundations provide funding for women and girls.
3.’5 Principles of Global Feminist Philanthropy‘ : Kellea Miller and Caitlin Stanton of Global Fund for Women, with Esther Lever of Mama Cash, share their collective wisdom and look forward to the next generation of grantmaking for women’s rights, in hopes of becoming “more effective, responsive and respectful grantmakers for laying bare our assumptions and our vision for the future”.
4. ‘Looking forward to the Next Generation of Global Feminist Philanthropy’: A blog by the National Committee of Responsive Philanthropy on best practices in funding groups working to empower women and girls globally.
5. ‘Strengthening Financing for Gender Equality and Women’s Organisations‘: Has the commitment for strengthening resources for women’s rights actually been translated into financial support? What policy measures are critical for sustaining financing for gender equality in a context of crisis? Drawing from AWID initiative ’Where is the Money for Women’s Rights’? this report by the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women addresses the above as well as other pressing questions.
6. Resource Materials from Webinar on ‘Feminist Cyblogs: Activism, Fundraising, and Society Online’: As part of the annual campaign ’16 days of Activism to end Gender Violence’ and with the assistance of TakeBackTheTech initiative, the African Feminist Forum hosted a webinar on feminist activism, fundraising and society online. All the presentations used for the webinar are available for download.
7. Equal Education, Equal Pay: Closing the Gender Wage Gap: It’s 2012 and close to four years after the Lilly ledbetter Fair Pay Act was signed into law in the US. Surely, the gender wage gap has been closed, right? Wrong. This excellent infographic guide explains why.
By: Elena Georgalla (FRIDA Intern)
16 is a remarkable number. It often marks some kind of passage or the breakdown of previous barriers: the coming of age and the transition to adulthood; driving license; consent; voting; graduation; legal obligations. 16 is also a number of action. Every year, from November 25- International Day Against Violence Against Women- to December 10- International Human Rights Day, thousands of activists around the globe merge their voices in 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.
The campaign, established in 1991 at the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute, offers an opportunity to renew our pledge to free women and girls from the global pandemic of violence. Whether it happens privately, behind closed doors, or employed publicly as a strategy of intimidation, in your building or on distant shores, gender-based violence affects women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo as it does in the United States. It knows no borders and no ethnic, racial, socio-economic, and religious lines. UN Women reports that 15 to 76 percent of women and girls of all ages, experience some form of sexual or physical violence in their lifetime. Gender-based violence can be physical, sexual and psychological and can include female infanticide; child sexual abuse; sex trafficking and forced labour; sexual coercion and abuse; neglect; domestic violence; coercion; economic deprivation; and elder abuse. Violence occurs in times of peace and ceasefire, and during war and social upheaval- both are two sides to a single coin. In recognition of this, the global theme of the 16 Days campaign this year is From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women! 2012 marks the third year of the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership ‘s advocacy on the intersections of gender-based violence and militarism.
During the 16-day period, thousands of organisations and activists mobilise to send a formidable message for the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls globally. Attention is also drawn to the abolition of harmful traditional practices, such as child and forced marriage; ‘honour’ killings; female genital mutilation; and gender-biased sex selection. Opportunities for action are countless, especially because the 16 Days of Activism campaign encompasses other significant dates as well, including November 29 – International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, December 1 – World AIDS Day; and December 6 which marks the anniversary of the Montreal massacre.
Taking immediate action matters to everyone, men and women. Initiatives taken vary from local campaigns to raise awareness to demonstrations and lobbying policy-makers. The latter is particularly important. Even though notable progress is being reported globally, it is vital to secure the appropriate legislation to criminalise such acts and prevent them from happening in the future. But even more crucial is to educate. Learning is certainly not exclusive to younger generations. However, FRIDA would like to highlight the prominence of young feminist activism around the world and the power of young women to take the future in their hands. Every action matters. For inspiration as to how you can join thousands in the global call for ending gender-based violence, check out the following incredible actions taken by young feminists around the world and ways to join them. If you are using social media, keep up with actions around the world (#16Days).
- In commemoration of World Aids Day, the AWID Young Feminist Wire draws attention to young women’s initiatives on combating HIV/AIDS and to the concrete ways women around the world are contributing to advancing women’s rights and social justice for those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.
- One of the most imaginative and engaging collaborative campaigns undertaken this year is Take Back The Tech!, calling out to everyone – especially women and girls – to take control of technology to end violence against women. Over the 16-day period, Take Back The Tech! invites you to take one action per day. Each daily action explores a different issue of violence against women and its interconnection with communication rights, and approaches different communication platforms in creative and tactical ways.
- OpenDemocracy 50:50 has launched an alternative coverage of the 16 Days international campaign, bringing you an array of articles, testimonies, poetry and short stories, exploring the continuum of violence against women globally.
- Women Win, an NGO dedicated to equipping young girls to exercise their rights through sport, has prepared a wonderful video to raise awareness about violence against women and girls in conflict and post-conflict regions and how sport can be a powerful means of coping with the physical and emotional trauma.
- The Centre for Women’s Global Leadership has launched a series of actions, including a 16 Days Campaign blog, featuring activists from around the world.
- On the occasion of November 29th, Women Human Rights Defenders Day, the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition released a statement, standing in solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of women activists around the world who courageously uphold women’s human rights, the rights of communities, and of the environment.
- Similarly, the JASS (Just Associates) joined on International Women Human Rights Defenders Day by paying a tribute to the women across the world fighting for justice and a better life in the face of violence and war, especially recognising the work of women activists in Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gaza and Egypt.
- Say NO – UNiTe campaign supported by the United Nations and UN Women has developed an elaborate guide on ways to take action for individuals, students. governments, civil society and corporations.
Ever action counts. Last day of the campaign is December 10th, International Human Rights Day. So get inspired and make sure you keep up with FRIDA grantee partners to see what other young feminist around the world are doing to make a change.
As first-time participants, AWID and FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund share reflections on the recent Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and ask readers to reflect with us on engaging in global agenda-setting spaces like CGI.
By Angelika Arutyunova, Lydia Alpizar and Amina Doherty
AWID and FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund attended the recent Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in New York City. In this Friday File we share reflections on the CGI space and some of the trends that are relevant for our work on gender equality, women’s rights and justice. The terrain is complex, the actors diverse and the pace fast — AWID and FRIDA ask whether, and how, women’s organizations and movements should collaboratively engage at the CGI and other such agenda-setting spaces.
What is the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and who is involved?
Established in 2005, CGI is a “by invitation only” space with tremendous convening capacity, bringing together heads of state, CEOs of major corporations, foundation presidents, heads of multilateral organizations and large international NGOs, celebrities, and leaders representing a diversity of other private sector actors and civil society organizations, “to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. By fostering partnerships, providing strategic advice, and driving resources toward effective ideas…”. 
To be eligible to join CGI and participate in its Annual Meeting, members must make a “commitment to action”. Since its establishment, CGI members have made more than 2,300 commitments valued at 73.1 billion USD. Commitments range from reducing packaging and conserving energy (Walmart), to funding 12 Special Olympics for people with intellectual disabilities worldwide (Paychex Corporation and Special Olympics International), to Goldman Sach’s “10,000 Women” program.
How did discussions at CGI relate to women and women’s rights?
The theme for CGI’s 2012 Annual Meeting was “Designing for Impact”, asking, “How can we design our world to create more opportunity and more equality? How are we designing our lives, our environments, and the global systems we employ in order to impact the challenges at hand?”In addition to a specific track on women and girls, the role of women in development was woven throughout the entire meeting—in plenaries and specific sessions. The eight sessionsspecifically focused on women and girls included topics such as security, empowering girls, and the economy and microfinance.
While the visibility of women and girls at the CGI meeting was welcome, the discourse and approaches presented varied greatly. Although human rights rarely featured overtly in the space, several individuals (including some from the corporate sector) were interested in understanding and discussing rights-based approaches. The language around women’s roles was largely ‘women as economic resources’, emphasizing the need “to unleash their full potential”. Most discussions around women and youth did not touch on root causes of discrimination, oppression, violence, lack of environmental sustainability and other systemic issues impacting women’s lives.
In response to the way much of the discourse around “investing in young women and girls” was framed, Amina Doherty (Coordinator of FRIDA) coined the term ‘Generation ROI’ (i.e. Returns on Investments), in other words a generation of young women who will come to see themselves simply as means to broader economic ends. Doherty says: “We must move in these spaces to encourage increased support to young women and girls not simply because it is ‘smart economics’ but because gender equality is a right.” Similarly, it is important to continue to push beyond the ‘investing in women’ framing so that women’s needs and priorities are the primary drivers in the selection of strategies and interventions.
Private sector approaches and ‘business solutions’ to global problems have a prominent role within CGI. There was widespread support for privatization (of education and other systems, as well as privatization as generally helpful for development), moving from ‘aid to investment’, and emphasis on ‘high impact’ and ‘scalability’, including in relation to ‘investing in women.’ There was also strong support for ‘collaborative solutions’ in the form of public-private partnerships.
This emphasis on the private sector is echoed in spaces at the UN and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD ) dealing with financing for development and development effectiveness; and is also increasingly reflected in the frameworks, language, policies and practices of the philanthropic sector. The ‘aid to investment’ rhetoric is particularly important in debates around the post 2015 agenda, where many actors will likely be promoting public private partnerships as key mechanisms for ‘the future we want’.
For organizations that support women’s rights, the prominence of these approaches raises some concerns. At the CGI meeting, there was little, if any, discussion on the role of private sector actors in creating some of the problems being mentioned and the lack of adequate mechanisms for holding them accountable. At the same time, a nuanced critique is needed, given the diversity of the sector. There are examples of private sector initiatives and collaborative efforts among the CGI commitments that have had important impacts in areas such as access to drinking water, child vaccination and immunization, and support for people with disabilities. Other initiatives are more clearly linked to agendas of corporate self-interest. For example, the ‘5 By 20’ Campaignlaunched by Coca-Cola at the CGI in 2010, partners with civil society and private sector actors to support 5 million women by 2020 through: empowering women entrepreneurs (that sell Coca-Cola) to strengthen job training, skills, and to link to mentors and strengthen business networks—thus supporting women in their supply chain and also expanding the distribution of Coca-Cola.
Should we engage? If so, how?
Bringing together some of the most influential minds and wallets in the world, the CGI is clearly becoming a powerful agenda-setting space with important ripple effects for the work and struggles of women’s rights movements globally. Debates within CGI offer further indications of the fast-paced shifts in thinking around development and social change, including work for women’s rights and gender equality, with diverse private actors playing significant roles. More than just a meeting space, the CGI is also gaining traction as a trendsetting space for funding priorities and modalities.
AWID and FRIDA followed debates at the CGI for close to a year before being invited to join this year’s meeting. We decided to accept the invitation to try to bring an alternative approach and discourse around economic empowerment and women’s rights and to learn more about these spaces that are outside our ‘comfort zone’ as feminists and women’s rights advocates, but where so many decisions are being made that are relevant to our agendas. Being at the CGI Annual Meeting allowed us to get a closer look at the dynamics among the actors present as well as trends that emerge in that space. It allowed us to learn about the diversity of private sector actors and agendas at play, as well as the possibilities for finding common ground in some cases.
We also recognized the potential to shift engagement in these spaces by taking a collective movement-based approach with allies also participating in CGI, such as Breakthrough, The Global Fund for Women, The Central American Women’s Fund and women’s rights advocates such as Nobel peace laureate Leymah Gbowee and feminist philanthropist Abigail Disney. Influence from these kinds of actors helped to ensure that a women’s rights agenda and discourse were not only present, but also acknowledged.
Undeniably, the fast pace at which ‘new’ actors are coming in to support women and development, coupled with their access to significant resources and mainstream media in the North raise questions about the extent to which women’s rights groups, with limited capacity and resources, can effectively engage and influence such initiatives. However, not engaging hardly seems a viable option. If we are not there, our experience and analysis remain invisible and unrecognized in the agendas that emerge. Consider the reflection of one speaker from a plenary of the 2011 CGI Annual Meeting: “we need to develop a whole new movement which [will] get us to achieve gender equality which is the unfinished agenda of this century.”This statement is a clear example of how our history can be erased and our struggles overlooked if we are not engaged and bringing to bear in these spaces the insights from decades of women’s rights organizing. Ultimately, the key question seems less about whether we should be engaging but rather the extent of engagement that we consider strategic; and what we expect to achieve by engaging.
As feminists and women’s rights advocates, we must reflect on some important questions that have not recently been part of our debates: How do we see the role of private sector actors in development in the current context? What are our positions about public private partnerships being advanced at so many levels, both in North and South? Can we navigate this complex scenario in ways that are true to our values and agendas and help us advance our work? Are we engaging in these spaces merely for mobilising more resources for gender equality and women’s rights organizing? Do we also need to be there to ensure that more voices and stories from women’s groups and activists working on the ground are heard, visible, recognized and shaping these agendas? Can we become protagonists in shaping the discourse around women’s rights in these powerful agenda-setting spaces? What are the implications of staying out of such spaces going forward?
We take to heart Bhumika Muchhala’s words at the recent launch of the special SID-AWID issue (53:3) of the journal Development, “we must be present in as many spaces as we can. We must ensure our voices are there and that they are heard. Part of the revolution is simply showing up.”
As AWID and FRIDA reflect on our first formal engagement with CGI and grapple with possible future strategies, we would very much appreciate your own reflections and ideas on these questions.
*Cross-posted from the Association for Women’s Rights in Development: http://awid.org/eng/News-Analysis/Friday-Files/The-Clinton-Global-Initiative-Learning-and-Reflections-from-AWID-and-FRIDA#.UIF0UkmjZrc.twitter
 Many of them based in the North, but some Southern-based as well
 “About us: Clinton Global Initiative.” 10 October 2012. Web:http://www.clintonfoundation.org/main/our-work/by-initiative/clinton-global-initiative/about.html
 For information on commitments made, see:http://www.clintonglobalinitiative.org/commitments/
 These include the sessions: Women Transforming Security: The Untapped Resource; How can we advance women-owned businesses in the developing world?; Designing for Consumers at the Base of the Pyramid; Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide; Women in the Economy: What We’ve Learned and Where We’re Headed; Women and the Built Environment: Designing for Opportunity; Empowering Girls Through Education; Integrating Women into Global Supply Chains; Uncovering the Multiplier Effect of Investing in Women.
 a quote from session description: Half the Sky
 “BRAC Founder & Chairperson talks about scaling up at CGI 2011” 23 September, 2011. 5 July 2012. Web: http://blog.brac.net/2011/09/sir-fazle-abed-brac-chairperson-cgi.html#.T_VasHCxxwY